Part of the series Modern Linguistics Series pp 251-265

Acts of Conflicting Identity: The Sociolinguistics of British Pop-song Pronunciation

  • Peter Trudgill


Anyone with an interest in British rock and pop songs will have observed that there are ‘rules’ concerning the way in which the words of these songs are pronounced.1 The label ‘tendencies’ might be more appropriate than ‘rules’ in some instances, but in any case it is clear that singers of this form of music employ different accents when singing from when they are speaking, and that deviations from their spoken accents are of a particular and relatively constrained type. This phenomenon of employing a modified pronunciation seems to have been current in popular music for some decades, probably since the 1920s, and has involved a number of different genres, including jazz, ‘crooning’, and so on. It became, however, especially widespread and noticeable in the late 1950s with the advent of rock-and-roll and the pop-music revolution.